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'I Was One Of Them'

Stephanie

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I don't know why, but I hadn't heard of this book...Should be a good read....

The American Legion Magazine
August, 2006


snip:
Hostage held by Iranians in 1979 offers his take on a new book about the crisis that triggered the U.S. war on terrorism

By Rick Kupke


The story of the American hostages who spent 444 days in Iran is now more than a quarter century old and rarely told in the detail that it deserves. I should know. I was one of them. Because the 52 of us who suffered the ordeal now number only 42, I was excited to read Mark Bowden’s latest book, “Guests of the Ayatollah.” With many of us approaching our 60s, 70s and beyond, I had begun to believe the story would never be completely and properly told.

Most Americans believe the beginning of modern terrorism against the United States began Sept. 11, 2001. They are wrong. Some would suggest it goes back to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, or perhaps the U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, or to the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, where 19 U.S. servicemen were killed. Others might suggest the mid-1980s, when various Americans, including Terry Anderson, Thomas Southerland and Father Lawrence Jenco, an old friend of mine, were taken hostage by Hezbollah in Beirut. Or maybe we should go further back, to the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut, where 241 U.S. servicemen were killed. Or the U.S. Embassy bombing there that same year.

I believe the era of modern terrorism began Nov. 4, 1979, when terrorists seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, took diplomats hostage, and demanded the U.S. government meet IranÂ’s conditions for our release. The threat of our trial and execution lasted nearly the entire 444 days.

What did we learn from the Iran hostage crisis? I am not sure. I do remember the wonderful celebration when we came home. It seemed we quickly put the crisis behind us. Col. Charles Scott, our military liaison officer and fellow hostage in Tehran, said it best: “We were Terrorism 101.” Perhaps the enemy learned more than we did.

Did we provide terrorist organizations around the world with that course in 1979 – a course in how the United States would respond to an act of terrorism, what the terrorist could accomplish and how helpless the United States appeared in resolving the crisis? Perhaps terrorists gained considerable insight into America’s handling of the Iran hostage crisis. Unfortunately, one could argue that terrorism works – until, of course, the terrorist encounters the professional U.S. military man.

That same year, late in the summer of 1979, Saudi national Osama bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan to fight the Russians after they invaded. Bin Laden fought beside the mujahadeen, who later formed part of his al-Qaeda (Arabic for “the base”). I wonder how much the 22-year-old bin Laden, hiding in the Afghan mountains, learned by watching what the Iranians were accomplishing just across the border. More important, what did he learn from America’s response to having its embassy seized and its diplomats held hostage, even paraded in front of angry mobs? I have often wondered how President Truman would have handled the Iran hostage crisis. Would he have immediately attacked Iran or given the terrorist country a three-day ultimatum? Would President Reagan have negotiated for 444 days? I don’t think so.

To date, Iran remains – for the most part – belligerent, unrepentant and unpunished for its act of terrorism. However, Bowden did travel to Iran four times for “Guests of the Ayatollah,” and he discovered that several of our former captors regretted some of the actions in 1979. The crisis ushered in the era of Islamic fundamentalism as a direct and constant threat to the United States. From my point of view, we were the first victims of terrorism. Former hostage Rocky Sickmann, a tough Marine guard, recently said, “The day they took us is the day we should have started the war on terrorism.”
http://www.legion.org/?section=publications&subsection=pubs_mag_index&content=pub_mag_hostage
 

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